The Journey of Actinium-225: How Scientists Discovered a New Way to Produce a Rare Medical Radioisotope

Inside a narrow glass tube sits a substance that can harm or cure, depending on how you use it. It gives off a faint blue glow, a sign of its radioactivity. While the energy and subatomic particles it emits can damage human cells, they can also kill some of our most stubborn cancers. This substance is actinium-225.

Fortunately, scientists have figured out how to harness actinium-225’s power for good. They can attach it to molecules that can home in on only cancer cells. In clinical trials treating late-stage prostate cancer patients, actinium-225 wiped out the cancer in three treatments.

This picture shows three different images of a single patient with end-stage prostate cancer.

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Αχ, πού’σαι, νιότη, που’δειχνες, πως θα γινόμουν άλλος.

Πάλι μεθυσμένος είσαι, δυόμισι η ώρα της νυχτός.
Κι αν τα γόνατα σου τρέμαν, “εκρατιόσουνα” στητός
μπρός στο κάθε τραπεζάκι. – Γεια σου Κωνσταντή βαρβάτε!
-Καλησπερούδια αφεντικά, πώς τα καλοπερνάτε;

Ένας σου’δινε ποτήρι κι άλλος σου’δινεν ελιά.
Έτσι πέρασες γραμμή της γειτονιάς τα καπηλιά.
Κι αν σε πείραζε κανένας –αχ, εκείνος ο Τριβέλας!
έκανες, πως δεν ένιωθες και πάντα εγλυκογέλας.

Χτες και σήμερα ίδια κι όμοια, χρόνια μπρός, χρόνια μετά…
Η ύπαρξή σου σε σκοτάδια όλο πηχτότερα βουτά.
Τάχα η θέλησή σου λίγη, τάχα ο πόνος σου μεγάλος;
Αχ, πού’σαι, νιότη, που’δειχνες, πως θα γινόμουν άλλος.

(του Βάρναλη)

Keeping it radioactive: This is how a molten salt nuclear reactor works

Radioactive elements produce heat as they decay. Nuclear plants draw power from this process, and typically stabilize the temperature with water. But during a power outage, H2O—which needs pumps to flow—can’t always prevent meltdowns. Molten salt reactors, which instead control heat with melted lithium and potassium fluorides, have a fail-safe: If the electricity dies, a plug will melt, causing the salts to seep down a safety drain and solidify around the uranium, preventing overheating. After a decades-long lull in development, countries from China to Denmark are building new molten salt reactors.

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Quantum electrodynamics and the proton size

Finding discrepancies between the predictions of fundamental theories and experimental observations is the main driver to develop physics further — the route to more advanced theories (‘new physics’) that fix the discrepancies. In that sense, quantum electrodynamics (QED) is currently seen as the most advanced fundamental theory, serving as the blueprint for any other quantum field theory. Progress is expected to come from ever more precise testing through comparison of theoretical predictions and experimental data. A good test compares values that can be both computed and measured with high accuracy. Some QED predictions excel in that respect, such as for the transition frequencies of atomic hydrogen and the gyromagnetic ratio of the electron.

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The Heidelberg compact electron beam ion traps

Electron beam ion traps (EBITs) are ideal tools for both production and study of highly charged ions (HCIs). In order to reduce their construction, maintenance, and operation costs, we have developed a novel, compact, room-temperature design, the Heidelberg Compact EBIT (HC-EBIT). Four already commissioned devices operate at the strongest fields (up to 0.86 T) reported for such EBITs using permanent magnets, run electron beam currents up to 80 mA, and energies up to 10 keV. They demonstrate HCI production, trapping, and extraction of pulsed Ar16+ bunches and continuous 100 pA ion beams of highly charged Xe up to charge state 29+, already with a 4 mA, 2 keV electron beam. Moreover, HC-EBITs offer large solid-angle ports and thus high photon count rates, e.g., in x-ray spectroscopy of dielectronic recombination in HCIs up to Fe24+, achieving an electron-energy resolving power of EE > 1500 at 5 keV. Besides traditional on-axis electron guns, we have also implemented a novel off-axis gun for laser, synchrotron, and free-electron laser applications, offering clear optical access along the trap axis. We report on its first operation at a synchrotron radiation facility demonstrating the resonant photoexcitation of highly charged oxygen.



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Probing Sizes and Shapes of Nobelium Isotopes by Laser Spectroscopy

Until recently, ground-state nuclear moments of the heaviest nuclei could only be inferred from nuclear spectroscopy, where model assumptions are required. Laser spectroscopy in combination with modern atomic structure calculations is now able to probe these moments directly, in a comprehensive and nuclear-model-independent way. Here we report on unique access to the differential mean-square charge radii of 252,253,254No, and therefore to changes in nuclear size and shape. State-of-the-art nuclear density functional calculations describe well the changes in nuclear charge radii in the region of the heavy actinides, indicating an appreciable central depression in the deformed proton density distribution in 252,254No isotopes. Finally, the hyperfine splitting of 253No was evaluated, enabling a complementary measure of its (quadrupole) deformation, as well as an insight into the neutron single-particle wave function via the nuclear spin and magnetic moment.


Figure 3

Read the full article on Phys. Rev. Lett

Revelations from the dissolved 226Ra-228Ra pair distribution in the South East Pacific Ocean

While it is confirmed that 226Ra is an interesting tracer of the water masses encountered along the GP16 US East Pacific Zonal Transect (EPZT) section cruise, 228Ra data coupled to the dissolved iron (Fe), cobalt (Co) and manganese (Mn) ones provide evidence that lateral transport of sediments from continental margins, including shelves and slopes, play an important role in open ocean trace elements and isotopes (TEI) budgets and biogeochemistry.

Indeed, elevated 228Ra activities were measured in the upper 200 m over the entire transect, a distance of 8500 km, as a result of sedimentary inputs from the continental shelf. In addition, a deep 228Ra plume was observed at ~1000–2500 m as far as 600 km away from the margin.

Linear dissolved Mn/228Ra relationship is observed both in shelf and offshore surface waters, suggesting that shelf sediments were likely the main source of dissolved Mn to the upper ocean. A linear dissolved Co/228Ra relationship was also observed in surface waters off Peru but no specific dissolved Co/228Ra trend was seen in shelf waters underlining the more complex behavior of Co in this area. Finally, the dissolved Fe/228Ra gradient suggests a rapid removal of Fe.

These results evidence again the important yet underappreciated role of continental slopes as sedimentary TEI sources to the deep ocean.

18 Sanial


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